Parallel Lines: The developing market


The industry needs to adopt different sales techniques and offer tailored bespoke solutions to be successful in unified comms, explains Evolve Telecom managing director Mark Gordon

We want unified communications to be a bigger part of our business in the future as it is undoubtedly an area with huge growth potential.

We are already involved in unified communications in some way – through offering IP-hosted telephony to businesses. We got into the area about three years ago but scaled our interest and resources invested back as the growth of IP-hosted telephony failed to meet the expectations of the marketplace.

What has held it back has been the quality of connectivity available to customers via their BT line or over broadband, which has been a big stumbling block for the market to accept the technology.

Now it’s markedly better than it was three years ago. BT has started to develop better and different types of connection that primarily support voice in a more dedicated way. The whole unified communications sector relies on that function being in place as the backbone that allows it to guarantee the delivery of a good quality of service.

The market is also benefiting from the entry of big organisations such as Vodafone and O2 into the unified communications space, which have the power to build a strong proposition that promises a good level of quality.

This formed a big part of our discussion with Vodafone about its OneNet proposition, as my chief concern wasn’t regarding the platform, the switch or the technology, but rather how Vodafone was going to guarantee to give a good quality of service as far as connectivity to their, and our customers, was concerned.

Big organisations like that have the ability to go out and agree a deal with the likes of BT that can be used to deliver a certain quality of service. And they know they can’t go to market with a service that doesn’t deliver the right experience for the end user as we won’t be able to sell it.

What excites us is that we’ve got a base of business clients who are already used to a good quality of service, so we can be more confident about selling them a solution that has that robustness about it by being associated with a brand name.

If we went to our clients and said they could have a solution provided by company ABC, who they’ve never heard of before, they’d probably turn us down. But because we can offer them something like Vodafone OneNet which is a solution delivered through a BT connection, it gives our customers more comfort. As a result, we’re definitely seeing more interest in unified communication services.

Unified communications are a more converged proposition these days as well. Before it was a fixed line solution that had some convergence with mobile. Now our customers are seeing that mobile and fixed line are being brought together properly in a way that can be a value proposition to them. We are speaking to a lot of people about unified communications these days as there is a real interest in what I call a ‘truly unified solution’, whereas before it was more about what looked like a unified solution.

And as long as there is a value proposition behind bringing mobile and fixed line together for the customer then we will see more interest from our client base.
But value isn’t what you should lead with when taking unified communications to market. That’s probably third on the list.

Instead you need to lead on how it will help customers’ businesses. How will it make their business more efficient and allow them to respond to their customers better? That’s the priority.
Then you need to make sure they understand how a unified communication solution is simplifying their communications as an organisation.

After that you can look at it and bring the value proposition into play, as those two combined will bring their own inherent savings.

It’s too easy to just say how you can save your customers money. It’s a different thing entirely to be able to say that you understand how their business operates, what their business is about and what you can put in place to make things better.

The solutions on offer might not always be the right solution. You have to understand the customer and their requirements to be able to tailor a system to suit their needs and that’s right for them.

Some might not want all of the proposition you have to offer. For instance, Vodafone OneNet is not for everyone.

It’s important to be able to offer alternative propositions that can be tailored to suit your customer and be introduced to their business model.

This industry can’t afford to go to market and say this is our product and it’s for everyone. You need a more refined selling technique these days. You need to be able to offer a tailored, bespoke solution to your customers and their businesses rather than trying to make something that’s not quite right fit.